Sunday, December 30, 2007

Twists of the knife: Hitchens on Bhutto

Both contrarian and iconoclast, Hitchens is someone I don't always agree with, but always enjoy reading. Even as he mourns Bhutto's assassination on strategic grounds, he reaches forward and twists the knife into her character, reminding us that most of what most of us have read about her hasn't probed much further than her Oxbridge education and gender, paired with pictures of this light-skinned stylishly-dressed beauty guaranteed to enhance her mainstream Western appeal. Dark haired Diana of the East.

He notes that the moderate icon played a role in fuelling extremism. As with the CIA's support of the Mujahadeen, the following smacks of short-sighted idiocy:

"...when she was prime minister, she pursued a very active pro-Taliban policy, designed to extend and entrench Pakistani control over Afghanistan and to give Pakistan strategic depth in its long confrontation with India over Kashmir."

Someone say something about coming home to roost?

For me her obsession with righting her father's wrongs brings to mind the great lame Megawati, a bit of an icon alongside her father's memory in Suharto controlled Indonesia. Neither Megawati nor her bapak had much to offer the country in the long run, and I do end up wondering why a country of umpteen million gets stuck with the privileged children of its previous blights coming back after power like it's a private dominion.

I suspect there's truth in Hitchens' assertion that:

"...the PPP, a supposedly populist party ... never had a genuine internal election and was in fact—like quite a lot else in Pakistan—Bhutto family property."

Then there are the nukes, and the corruption allegations. And her family's gift to world peace:

"...the two main legacies of Bhutto rule—the nukes and the empowered Islamists—have moved measurably closer together."

Rest in peace m'dear, your death only slightly less tragic than those of the innocents in the crowd.

But you're no Mother Teresa. Damn, Hitchens has tarnished that icon too.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Those would be stars

In the dark we stand, looking back down the track to her great grandpop's house. 4 generations dined there this eve, celebrating 85 years, a lucky man, a skillful shot, a dogged survivor. We are all grateful he saw off Kokoda and Borneo. That he married a fine lady, whose nickname became Bear's middle name, and built a family on a fine piece of dirt.

We stand on that dirt, in the dark, the voices of the others fading as they enter the other house behind us. I hold Bear close, she works a piece of my neck between her right fingers, holds my upper arm with her other hand. It is so dark, dark like it never gets in the city. But I can see her wide-open eyes in the starlight.

"Those are stars. Twinkle twinkle indeed, the real thing" I tell her. She takes in everything, silent, amazed.

Much is pitch black, but the outline of the tops of the trees can be made out. Above them, the rich spray of unfamiliar stars. Down the track opposite great grandpop's there's a weak reflection from the water of a small dam. In other directions are hills, precursors to the Snowys, and in closer the vines; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc all have their genesis on this land. Like the trees, they can be made out in places, but as black-on-black adjustments to texture and shape.

No cars, voices, music or humming appliances. No bogans shouting at each other randomly. You realise how penetrating the background noise of the city is when you get out this far. Here the frogs and crickets are a different medium altogether, as loud on the ears, maybe, but softer on the soul.

We stand for several minutes. A normally fickle and restless Bear remains fascinated, her eyes still wide, her breathing even and slow. I am in awe too, of the place, the dark, the quiet. And of the little ball of wonder in my arms, this tiny girl who puts such faith and trust in me, to be sitting so calmly in this alien darkness.

I kiss her head. She has coined a new word on this trip; "nang-nang." Nang-nang, her Uncle (beloved's sister's beloved) has deduced, means infinity- everything entirely, expressed as an equation of nang.

I am a grumpy old man in some respects, have been since about the age of 7. But standing there in the dark I realise that Bear's capacity to make me completely happy, content and at peace with the world, just by being herself, is nang-nang.